The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


OldWoodenSpoon's picture

I thought:  I have just enough time to bake one more goodie.  With both our son and daughter coming home for Christmas, what could be better than a celebration?  Since I just got the BBA off the bookmobile, why not use Peter Reinhart's celebration loaf, the Cranberry Walnut Celebration Loaf to be exact?  Well, mostly exact.  I did not have any real buttermilk, but we have some powdered buttermilk in the refrigerator, so I substituted that instead.  I bought the orange extract for this loaf, deciding I would like that better than the lemon, and I am sure I made the right choice there.  I also decided to soak the dried cranberries before making this up, so I put them in a bowl with about 1/3 cup of brandy and enough hot water to cover them, for about an hour.  I mostly drained them before adding them to the dough.  I should have drained them a little better.

This was not a overly difficult formula but I had some trouble with the hydration.  At first the dough came out quite dry and I added several (4 or 5) tablespoons of water before it seemed right. I later realized this was because I used powdered buttermilk, and failed to adjust the water.  At least I failed to acknowledge the water required, but I did add it since I got to the prescribed dough consitency.  Then I added the cranberries that I should have drained more thoroughly and it got too wet.  A scant tablespoon of flour brought it around and made me happy.  The cranberries and walnuts were a little trouble to get well distributed too, but in the end it seems to have turned out well.

It took several minutes longer than the recipe called for to reach the internal temperature target, but the loaf developed beautiful color by the time it was finally done.  The aroma while cooking was redolent of oranges and cranberries mixed in with that "There's bread in the oven!" smell I imagine we all love so much.  It was a great house to go to bed in last night while this loaf cooled.  Here it is:

Cranberry-Walnut Celebration Loaf

And of course, the crumb:

We could not resist trying a couple of slices this morning.  It has a delightful texture with a tender and creamy crumb, plenty of fruit and nuts, and if anything, a bit too strong an orange overtone to it.  I think I will reduce the orange extract next time, or at least measure extra carefully to see if it was my mistake.  It is not overpowering, but it is a bit strong to our taste.  Regardless, we are planning to make sure there is enough left over for turkey sandwiches on Sunday.

Merry Christmas to all

davidg618's picture

This year I sent all my children and their families, and a couple of dear friends a loaf of sourdough, and a sampling of cookies: Welsh Cakes, Date-Nut Pinwheels--reminiscent of their great-grandmother--and biscotti, a recent discovery and new favorite of mine.

After a week of marathon baking:

10 loaves sourdough--our oven can only bake two at a time,

19 dozen Welsh Cakes,

14 dozen Date-Nut Pinwheels,

14 dozen Biscotti (Parmesan-Blackpepper, Cherry Pecan, Hazlenut-Citron, and Amaretto-Almond)

 3 Sandwich loaves: 40% Whole-wheat, for ourselves,

and 16 mini-loaves: cranberry-orange, for the neighbors.

Today we took a one day break.

Tomorrow I'm doing a mincemeat pie, and Yvonne is baking a pumpkin pie. We're having eight of the neighbors for Christmas dinner.

Life is good.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

David G


hanseata's picture

The kids no longer living with us, I get late into Christmas mode. No Adventskranz (traditional wreath with 4 candles lit for each Sunday before Christmas) on the table, no calendar window to open. Holiday baking happens usually in a rush on the 23. and 24th, but this year we are invited for Christmas dinner, and nobody's around to eat all the goodies (not counting a dog that would LOVE to help us with that task!).

Having to limit my output I decided on two of the best: Mohnstollen (poppy seed stollen) and Lebkuchen (German spice cookies). Before I came to Maine I never made either of them, stollen I always got from my mother, and I never cared too much for Lebkuchen. If Cooks Illustrated had not published a recipe for German spice cookies last year, I would never have dreamed of making them. Sheer curiosity prompted me to try it ("Americans and German Lebkuchen, haha!").

Reducing the sugar just a little, I followed the recipe, and the result was - incredibly good! Instead of the chewy, dry-ish store-bought stuff I sometimes had at home, this was a delicate, moist cookie, where you could actually taste the toasted hazelnuts; and the spices were spicy in a good way, harmonious, not crude. Last year we ate them so fast, I had to make two batches, and gave some to the nice people from A & B Naturals (the store that sells my breads), too.


To find a perfect recipe for Mohnstollen was not easy - there are so many of them. I settled on one whose ingredients I liked best, from a German cooking magazine's website (essen& But I would add an overnight fermentation, reduce the sugar, and exchange half of the raisins with cranberries for a little bit of tartness. So far so good! But what about the poppy seed filling? Germans always use Dr. Oetker's "Mohnback", a ready-made poppy seed mix you can buy everywhere. Fortunately the "internets" yielded a recipe for home made poppy mix, too, with almond paste, semolina flour, milk and eggs.

Our Cuisinart coffee mill that we were about ready to trash - it did a miserable job with the coffee beans - now got it's second chance. And, lo and behold, it ground the poppy seeds as if it were made for just that. The last ingredient I had to find was candied citrus peel. Our supermarket had only some tutti frutti mix left, full of Maraschino cherries (I hate them). Again, Google, helper of the clueless, linked me to a recipe.

Candied orange peel

The Mohnstollen turned out as good as expected, I sold some, too - and I won't tell my mother that it's better than hers.

"Downeast" Mohnstollen with cranberries


dstroy's picture

This week has been the week of baking lots of Christmas cookies - this year I've been doing the cookie baking (Floyd's still in charge of supplying our dinner breads ;) Im nowhere near making those pretty sourdoughs myself!)


Yesterday I made a big batch of Sour Cream Sugar Cookies. I didn't have any lemons on hand to add the rind so I substituted some lemon juice (and only after dropping it in did it occur to me that with the baking soda in there I might have been producing a volcano, but luckily nothing of the sort occurred and the cookies turned out delicious) and I separated the icing into different bowls and added some color and let the kids paint the cookies with little paintbrushes so they were nice and festive. I'd forgotten that the cookies grew a little bit, so they held their shape but did spread out a little.



The exciting new thing I tried this year came about after an accidental purchase of too much Nutella. I'd not seen the double-jars I had hidden in the back of the pantry and had purchased yet another jar - well with all that Nutella something has to be done!

Someone sent me a link to this recipe and I decided to try it. The recipe there was a bit more uptight than my patience allows, so here is the slightly simplified version of what I made:


Start with roasting the hazelnuts: I got a bag of shelled hazelnuts in the bulk section and spread them on a pan and broiled them until they were toasted. I used about 1 1/2 cups. Next, put them in a little food processor to chop them into little crumbs. (As it turns out, I'm hearing that most folks peel the skin off the nuts when they roast them - I didnt do this and think they taste fine, particularly with such a sweet cookie. I'm also finding that the skins are actually better for you - does anyone know why the norm is to peel them?)

Next, the dough:

Into the bowl of a mixer, beat until creamy a stick of butter and ½ cup sugar until it starts to get fluffy (I skipped the step of waiting to bring it to room temperature, but it didn't seem to matter - this helped too with not having to wait to chill the dough later)

Separate out 2 egg yolks, saving the whites in a smaller bowl for later use, and add the yolks in.

Add 1 tsp. vanilla

Then add 1¼ cups all-purpose flour,

1/8 tsp. coarse salt

and ¼ tsp. baking soda slowly until combined

Preheat oven to 325° F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a shallow bowl, mix the chopped hazelnuts with about 2-3 Tablespoons of sugar (to taste)

Roll the dough into small balls and then dip in the whites and then roll them in the nut mixture before placing them on the parchment with about an inch of space between them.

Squish a little hole in the center of each dough-ball to make a depression with a finger or little spoon, then bake for 10 minutes at 325° F

Remove and using a small spoon, squish the hole again, as it will grow a little bit puffy, before returning to the oven for another 10 minutes.


Allow them to cool a few minutes then move them to a rack, fill with a spoonful of Nutella. (Microwave at 30 seconds to get the chocolate stuff melty and runny)

Throw them in the fridge for a bit to let them set a bit, but these are going to be goopy even cooled.




Gawker's picture

After my first attempt in artisan baking my family promptly volunteered me for garlic bread duty for the family spaghetti lunch Xmas eve...I figured I'd just do another batch like I did for my introduction and then garlic it but then I decided I wanted to make rolls for dinner at my father-in-law's Xmas eve and lunch at my mother-in-law's Xmas day as well. Well since the rolls are new I'm making a trial run of it today and figured since I already have the oven going I'd try a sandwich loaf as well...I'm now in gym shorts and the lightest shirt I own and dying from the heat. BTW if anyone is wondering why this halfway reads like realtime and halfway reads like I'm writing after the fact it's because I'm a spaz and I'm "blogging" to distract me while the bread does what it does without me getting in the way...oh yeah all recipe's and rights belong their respective owners blah blah blah I take credit for absolutely nothing here except what actually came out of my oven.

So anyways here we go...on the left is my bowl of rolls heading neatly into their 90 minute rise; and on the right a bowl of "Wonder-if-this-is-going-work Bread" dough going through the first 25 minute prior to processing into loaves. At this point all I can think of is how badly I now want a stand mixer so I don't have to do this stuff by hand anymore...maybe for my birthday.

The rolls are almost finished with their first rise but the sammich bread dough yielded two 665 gram loaves that are now panned for their final rise. Here's hoping there's some oven spring in the stars for me today.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, I started working on the rolls but sadly I forgot to take any pictures while I was working...whoops. Anyhow I scaled 36 dough balls at 36 ±2 grams (sorry draftsman and machinist) and reformed them so the insides rolled outside to let them stick together instead of hoping the drier skin on the original rise would allow it to happen. I REALLY hoped they'd go ahead and still rise after that but they did no sweat!

The rolls yielded a dozen clovers roughly 108 grams each and they're now entering their final rise as I'm about to slash and lod the loaves. It's still hot in here and I kinda feel like the proverbial one legged man right about now but I have to admit my timing is working out well because a couple minutes after I finished putting the rolls together it was time to slash and load the loaves. Egg washed for color and into the oven they go...I'm REALLY hoping to get some spring because otherwise these are going to look a little silly... wish was granted somewhat! Ok so my slashes look a little funny but hey I'll get better I promise. Also if the shot looks a little funny it's because this was the only way I could get rid of the glare of the oven light...sorry. SIDE NOTE: Has anyone seen my wife? She was in here when I started this fiasco...but now she's gone...hrmmm..........

Never mind I found her. This pregnancy has been really different than our daughter and seems to be taking a lot out of her. She's asleep with my cat. Oh well onward and upward! (Get it? Upward? Yeast humor!!)

Quickly followed by the clovers slashed, egg washed, and sprinkled with some French Grey sea salt (I was thinking pretzel) and into the oven. Whew anybody getting tired or is it just me?

And thankfully I got some spring again...though now that I think about it they're starting to crowd each other a touch...crap...oh well they're still purdy

So since this recipe says 30 minutes and the cook in me says "Yeah but look at the size of that thing!" I'm guessing being split into muffin cups they'll cook faster so I'm going to pull one when I see them the color I like and check it...

Ok am I supposed to get the loaves out of the pan immediately? cause the bottoms feel a little soggy after cooling a while in the and learn.

And here's the shot of the final clover rolls. Thanks for playing along for those of you who didn't get bored before this point!!!

ananda's picture

 Yields 2 large tinned loaves @ 1064g eachDSCF1528DSCF1529


Formula [% of flour]

Recipe [grams]

1. Leaven



"Hovis" Super Strong White Flour









2. Final Dough



Leaven [from above]



"Hovis" Super Strong White Flour












Overall hydration



% pre-fermented flour




  • The leaven was built with 3 elaborations. Thirty grams of stock white levain, was built as a liquid starter for 2 refreshments [equal flour and water], then a final refreshment to turn it to a stiff starter with a 60% hydration. The build time was just over 24 hours.
  • From there, autolyse the flour and water for the final dough for 45 minutes. Note that the "Englishman's castle" was, yet again, snowbound, with the kitchen probe displaying a cruel 9°C. However, the multi burner was just being fired up, so the leaven was warm and active. Still, the dough water temperature used was around 40°C, and the final dough temperature was a mere 23°C
  • The flour took up plenty of water, and then mixed very quickly with the salt and leaven added to form a well developed dough. Bulk proof time was just short of 2 hours, during which time, we had a somewhat worrying power cut. I was expecting to retard the dough overnight in the frozen and snowy Square where we live!
  • Power restored, I set to scaling and dividing, cutting off 8 pieces at 266g. Mould these round and rest covered for 15 minutes. Then roll up and shape as for mini loaves, and place 4 pieces in each tin, as shown in the photos.
  • Prove, fireside for 3½ hours
  • Bake profile as follows: Preheat the oven for one hour minimum, to 250°C. Place the 2 loaves side-by-side on the hot bricks, acting as an oven stone. Pour boiling water onto the stones the roasting pot on the base of the oven for steam. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn the loaves round and drop the oven temperature to 220°C for a further 20 minutes. Drop the heat to 200°C, turn the loaves around again, if necessary, and bake out a further 5 - 10 minutes.
  • Cool on wires


  • I made this bread as an experiment, so I could offer useful feedback for my brother, David. He, and his wife, Lorraine, own a lovely Bed and Breakfast spot in the Yorkshire Dales. Dave has been making his own bread every day and offers this to his guests for both breakfasts and evening meals. He uses a breadmaking machine, on the long fermentation cycle. I believe he mixes a portion of wholemeal and "Granary" flour into the grist, along with this particular white flour I have used, and has been very pleased with the results from day one, until October time. Of course, this date is significant, as I estimate the problems he has subsequently encountered and complained about, to coincide exactly with the arrival of the newly harvested crops from 2010! My brother buys his flour online from Tesco, and, uses quite a bit, as a large-scale homebaker, I guess. He has been in touch with the technicians at Rank Hovis, who I actually know and have worked with. They are investigating his complaint, but I gather from his comments that his problem is inconsistency, rather than poor bread, every time! He's a bit lost on this, as am I. So, Alison and I are going to visit Dave and Lorraine on Tuesday, on our way to visit my Mum and Dad, pre-Christmas in East Yorkshire.
  • The method used to "tin up" the dough pieces is known in the plant-baking industry in the UK as "four-piecing". I have discussed this with txfarmer in one of her posts, which you can see here: Basically, with the moulding turned round from the conventional one-piece, the gas cells become elongated in the opposite direction to those in the four-piece, where each piece has been turned through 90° on the single piece. The way the light reflects on the finished crumb gives an added whiteness and superior appearance to the finished crumb. See this explanation from Stan Cauvain: It's not that important a feature in the world of Artisan Bread, but it is of fundamental importance to the all-powerful plant bakers in the UK. That and a crumb with no holes, so your bread/toast doesn't drip butter, or, marmalade, onto your lap! These really are the priorities in the long ubiquitous loaf found the length and breadth of Britain. So, I'm trying to mimic this bread, but make it as "real bread" at the same time.
  • So, what really matters to us then? Taste and flavour most likely!



  • All four of us were really pleased with the bread in terms of its flavour. Granted, the dough had been entirely raised from the power of the natural leaven. However, my deliberate intention had been to make a bread which would have characteristics as close as possible to those of the conventional loaf, BUT, also be pleasing for all of us to eat. Since none of us particularly like "white bread" in this form, there was little point mimicking UK plant bread. So, the natural leaven was strong, but the multi elaborations were designed to create high yeast activity, but less bacterial fermentation, and thus a heavy reduction in any sour notes. Mission well-accomplished here.
  • The final bread is not WHITE! Indeed, the ferment is quite clearly not white either. See attached photographs for detail. This is very interesting, as if Hovis were to do any benchmarking of my loaf, made entirely with their white flour, I suspect an immediate action plan may be needed. The end resulting whiteness of crumb in the British "sliced white" is of incredible significance, being one of the key signs of quality a large-scale baker would use to judge their bread. Culturally, this is a huge deal, going back to the invention of roller milling and the industrialisation of agriculture, and the use of world traded wheat. For Britain, this means going back to the latter part of the 19th Century; so white bread for the masses is very long established here, as in France, of course!
  • Consideration should be given to the implications of a lack of whiteness. My baking mentor had been a Chief Executive at several of the large plant baking factories before he came into lecturing. His comments about the strong white flour we used during my time at College in Leeds were, of course, very telling. He was always keen to point out the little black flecks in the white flour, when carrying out visual inspections. "They are robbing us", is what he would say. You can imagine given his background, noted above, that he had deep suspicions of the miller! So, when he bought white flour in huge quantities, he really did expect it to be white.
  • However, he really wanted his cake, and he wanted to eat it too! Flour which is not so white will have greater water absorbency. This is on account of the extra bran and germ content, which has not been removed so thoroughly as in very white flour. So, the up side of the greyer flour is greater water absorption, thus allowing a plant baker greater yield, the down side is a perception of lesser quality. A plant baker wants a very white flour with exceptionally high quality protein....somewhat like the All-Canadian "Special CC" I have the pleasure of using in College. This is milled by the same miller who mills for Warburtons, a huge and very successful plant baker in the UK. Indeed, currently the most successful of the plant baking triumvirate, and the one recognised by the buying public as producing higher quality bread. Interesting observations, indeed!
  • DSCF1530DSCF1531DSCF1533DSCF1536DSCF1538DSCF1539DSCF1543DSCF1546DSCF1548DSCF1549



Well, we seemed to be guaranteed a White Christmas here in the frozen North of England.   Whatever the weather, and wherever you are, I'd like to wish all you good people at TFL a very Happy Christmas and a really great year in 2011



varda's picture

Over the past few weeks I have been trying to "take it up a level."   I had hit the wall on getting properly shaped and slashed naturally leavened loaves.    LindyD's recent post on generating steam set off a lightbulb in my head.  The symptoms I have been trying to cure are cuts that open a little and then seal over, and a split side.   I had been convinced that this was caused by underproofing even though I was doing my best with the poke test, rise times and so on.   When I read her post I started to wonder if I was having trouble with steam.   I had been preheating a dry jelly roll pan on the base of the oven and pouring in cold water at the same time as loading the loaves.  This sets off a cloud of steam and then the water continues to boil for around 15 minutes before it evaporates completely so I thought I was all set.   But I do have a brand new gas oven and after reading Lindy's post, I began to suspect that it was efficiently venting out steam as fast as I could generate it.   After surfing around a bit, I found the following excellent comment in a post on side splitting   So I surfed around some more for steaming methods that didn't involve going out and buying rocks and I found the following: and I tried it and dramatic improvement.    But it involved a little too much mucking around with steaming hot towels so I experimented some more and came up with a similar, but what seemed to me like a simpler and safer method.   I placed some soaked towels into bread pans half filled with unheated tap water on each side of my stone half an hour before loading the loaves, and let them preheat with everything else.   By the time I loaded the loaves, I got hit in the face with a cloud of steam.   Then fifteen minutes later, I removed the bread pans (with a long tongs) and once again got hit in the face with a cloud of steam, so I figured that the oven had been steamy enough in the interim.    The bottom line is the cuts opened, and the sides did not.   In fact they opened too much.   I have overdone it.   Too much steam?   Something else?   By the way, this site is just fantastic.   I would still be baking out of Clayton using speed em up 70s methods if it hadn't been for all of you.

Mebake's picture

This is my first Yeast only miltigrain wholewheat from Hamelman's BREAD under Preferments:

I accidentally used 1T extra of sea salt. To my surprise the bread even tasted better!

Happy Holidays to everyone!


Mateo Feo's picture
Mateo Feo


Hi everyone! (I'm new to the site and bake like a mad-man)

i love the site and wanted to share some of my baking adventures.  

This is my daughter when she was 3-days old and fresh out of the oven. She is still called Sophie Loaf to this day.  



Sophie Loaf


 challah was wonderful too! 

hanseata's picture

During our last trip to Portland I lured my (for good reasons) wary husband to go with me to "Rabelais", with the sanctimonious promise "just wanting to look what's new". Rabelais is cooks' equivalent to an opium den, a famous cookbooks-only store; they carry probably every English language (and several foreign language) cookbook on the market, plus many antique ones. Leafing through all these enticing books, looking at all those mouthwatering photos, leaves the mind boggled and the eyes glazed over...We left the store, I with my broken promise - and Jan Hedh's "Swedish Breads & Pastries" -, and my cautious Richard with a (twice as expensive!) magnificent Vietnamese cookbook.

What had caught my attention in Hedh's book was the leaven used in several Pains au Levain - yeast made of raisins or apples. With all that discreetly fomenting leftover apple yeast water in my fridge - thanks to RonRay - I needed another baking challenge after producing one nice  loaf with this strange homemade yeast. Reading the recipes I was quite astonished to learn that fruit yeast is regularly used by French and Italian (and obviously also some Swedish) bakers as milder sourdough alternative. From Ron's (RonRay) and Akiko's (teteke) discussion on fruit yeast breads I had assumed that this was a (somewhat exotic) Japanese invention!

Following Hedh's recipe I cultivated a "mother" (1. step), "chef" (2. step) and then the levain from about a teaspoonful of apple yeast water. When I placed the Pain au Levain in the oven, it looked to me somewhat flat, and I was a bit concerned about it's oven spring capacities. While we were drinking tea, I kept one eye on the oven. At first the rim rose a bit, the middle seemed to cave in - and then I watched incredulously how my bread started growing a veritable horn!

After some suspenseful minutes the whole loaf began to swell ominously, but fortunately stopped short of exploding.

Pain au Levain from Jan Hedh's "Swedish Bread & Pastry

Holey loaf! Apple Yeast Gone Wild - or only baker's impatience?


The bread tasted great, and even with the large holes, we managed to butter the slices and eat them with Südtiroler Speck and Fontina.

This weekend I gave it another try. With the first loaf I had made the dough with brief kneading and autolyse - whereas Jan Hedh suggests long kneading, at low speed, without autolyse. I wanted to see whether it would make any difference if I used his technique, and, also, whether a longer rise in the banneton would affect the bread's "holeyness".

The first loaf I had made with a whole wheat and rye addition, for the second I wanted to use some leftover kamut. The longer kneaded dough got warm faster than stated in the recipe - the water should have been colder - but I didn't notice the slightest difference in dough consistency or performance to the one I made before. And I like the idea with brief kneading and autolyse much better.

This time I tried to catch the exactly right moment of the optimal rise before placing the bread in the oven. And then I watched and - saw another horn growing, though less pronounced than the first one. And the bread had, again, a very strong oven spring.

Pain au Levain with kamut

So I guess it's really The Power of The Apple Yeast

The kamut version tastes as good as the first bread. And now I'm going to have a slice!




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